Quaderno del nulla

 

Siena, 1 gennaio 1927

 

Dina Ferri

Lentamente, ad eguali intervalli, nella notte silenziosa, l’orologio del Carmine batté dodici colpi. L’anno vecchio moriva e un altro se ne affacciava alla soglia del tempo. Quante gioie e quanti dolori, quanti ricordi e quante speranze svanite come l’ombra vaga d’un sogno! Per la prima volta, allo scoccar di quell’ora, io mi trovavo lontana dai miei cari; vidi solitaria la casa nell’ombra e provai tutta la tristezza di quella lontananza. Il silenzio della notte fredda parve opprimermi. Ma a poco a poco, quasi involontariamente il pensiero si allontanava, tornando ai ricordi remoti, quelli più dolci. E tra essi, uno ce n’era più d’ogni altro soave: quello di mia nonna. Oh quante volte mi cullò su le ginocchia, affettuosa! Ancora vedo quel pio sorriso di perdono, ancora lo sguardo di quegli occhi, il candore di quei capelli. Ma il ricordo più soave che ho di quella santa donna*, è il sussurro di una preghiera. «Ave Maria!», ripeteva sempre insegnandomi a pregare, «Ave Maria». Io allora non potevo capire; solo sentivo qualche cosa di dolce scendere sul mio cuore, e ripetevo quelle parole. Quante volte, dopo, le ho ripetute. Quante volte mi son tornate alla memoria nei momenti lieti o tristi. E sempre con la loro solita dolcezza, col loro pietoso conforto. Ma poi (come vola il pensiero!) vidi un povero cimitero, una chiesina rovinata, poche croci arrugginite, quattro vecchi cipressi. E da una di quelle tombe veniva il sussurro confuso e smarrito di una preghiera. Sempre quella: «Ave Maria».

A notebook of nothings

 

Siena, January 1, 1927

 

Dina Ferri

Slowly, at precise intervals, in the silent night, the clock of the Carmine struck twelve times. The old year was coming to an end and another one was on the threshold of time. So much cheer and pain, so many memories and hopes vanished like the vague shadows of a dream! For the first time in my life, as the clock struck twelve, I was far from my loved ones; I saw my home alone in the shade and felt all the sadness of that distance. The silence of the cold night seemed overwhelming. But a little at a time, almost involuntarily, my thoughts began to wander, returning to past memories, more pleasant ones.  And among them, there was one that was even dearer to me than others: the memory of my grandmother. Oh how often she rocked me on her knees, lovingly! I can still see her gentle forgiving smile, the sparkle in her eyes, and her silvery curls. But the fondest memory I have of that dear woman* is the whisper of a prayer. “Hail Mary!” she repeated again and again, teaching me to pray, “Hail Mary”. I couldn’t understand then, but I would feel something warm enveloping my heart, and I would repeat those words. I don’t know how many times I have repeated them since, how many times they have come to my mind, in good times and bad. And they have always held the same gentleness, with their merciful relief. But then (how thoughts stray!) I saw a poor graveyard, a church in ruins, few rusty crosses, and four old cypress trees. And from one of those graves came the whisper, confused and lost, of a prayer. That same one: “Hail Mary.”

Translation ©Matilda Colarossi

* In this piece, written while the author was in the Istituto di Santa Caterina, where she was admitted in October, 1927, Dina Ferri remembers her childhood, and her grandmother, Caterina, ending with the memory of a grave, her young cousin’s.

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